Washington, D.C. — Yesterday, Congresswoman Madeleine Dean reintroduced legislation to help people experiencing homelessness and behavioral health issues, including substance use disorder, receive more streamlined critical supportive services. The Homelessness and Behavioral Health Care Coordination Act is co-sponsored by Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia (TX-29); Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA) is leading a companion bill in the U.S. Senate.
The Homelessness and Behavioral Health Care Coordination Act would authorize a grant program within the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to help state and local governments, tribal entities, public housing agencies, and Continuums of Care better coordinate services for behavioral health, including substance use disorder, and homelessness.
“As Pennsylvanians, and communities everywhere, face the crises of homelessness and substance use disorder — the rate of homelessness more than doubled in Montgomery County last year — it was crucial to reintroduce this legislation that can more holistically support people with housing, recovery, and mental and behavioral health,” Rep. Dean said. “My son’s experience battling substance use disorder helped me better understand the importance of streamlining critical services and strengthening the network between agencies offering behavioral health services and those offering homeless services. I will continue to advocate for the Homelessness and Behavioral Health Care Coordination Act in the 118th Congress and look forward to it being voted on in the House.”
“With over 580,000 people in our country experiencing homelessness, a number of whom are also facing substance use or mental health disorders, it’s clear we must work to better coordinate resources for these vulnerable populations,” Sen. Padilla said. “Our bill would remove barriers and help streamline health and housing services to more effectively address the homelessness and growing behavioral health crises in California and across the nation.”
More than 580,000 people experience homelessness on a single night, and around 17 percent of the total homeless population suffers from chronic substance use disorder. This legislation would award 5-year grants of up to $500,000 to help eligible entities improve system infrastructure, improve technologies, and increase the availability of Naloxone.
“The Homelessness and Behavioral Health Care Coordination Act will be instrumental in breaking down the barriers between the homelessness and health care sectors so that local homelessness systems will more easily access the supportive housing services including navigation, landlord intervention, and case management that are necessary to safely and securely house people experiencing homelessness who have acute needs, including substance use and behavioral health issues. The Alliance commends Representative Dean for her leadership on this important legislation and thanks her for the careful and thoughtful process by which the bill was drafted. We are eager to work with Representative Dean to enact her legislation,” the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) said.
“I applaud Congresswoman Madeleine Dean for introducing the ‘Homelessness and Behavioral Health Care Coordination Act,’ which builds on decades of research, learning, and bipartisan support for proven solutions to homelessness,” Diane Yentel, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said. “The evidence is irrefutable: the most effective way to end homelessness is to provide affordable, accessible homes linked with voluntary wrap-around services, including substance use and other health services. By building our nation’s capacity to bring together housing and healthcare services, this bill can help us more effectively address homelessness.”
“The population of people without homes in America continues to change, with more and more folks needing services to address behavioral health challenges in order to end their homelessness. The behavioral health systems (mental health and substance use) and the homeless service systems continue to be siloed in most communities with difficulty accessing each other’s resources. This bill offers us a chance to break down the walls of those silos and provide low barrier housing with appropriate levels of service, to reach our most vulnerable citizens,” Christine Simiriglia, President and CEO of Pathways to Housing PA, said.
“Homelessness, addiction and mental health challenges often go hand in hand. None can effectively be addressed without the others. Yet coordination between large public systems can be very difficult. This bill will give public health, behavioral health and homeless service systems new tools to come together to help people holistically based on what they really need – not just what we traditionally offer.” Elizabeth G. Hersh, Director, Office of Homeless Services, City of Philadelphia said.
Rep. Madeleine Dean is a mother, grandmother, attorney, professor, former four-term member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, and U.S. Representative for the Fourth District of Pennsylvania.